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Oct 19, 2011 04:08 PM

Review - Jacques Genin

Thanks to the advice on this board and from a New York Times review of the place, I carved out a fair amount of time to head to Jacques Genin this week. And I have to admit, I was a little disappointed.

First, I should say, some of the chocolates and caramels were divine. The mango caramel was like pure mango, but with better consistency than the fruit. And the dark chocolate with mint was simply amazing. Superb. I don't know how he made it taste like a mint leaf suspended in chocolate, but it tasted as if I picked the leaf from my garden and melded it with chocolate. Fabulous.

We arrived shortly after a rain storm, after wandering around for a while looking for the store. It's a bit off the beaten path -- at least a half hour's walk from the main tourist area around Tuleries/rue de Rivoli/the Louvre. No problem there -- we bought umbrellas and made it an adventure. But when we walked in the door, I felt as if our appearance (a little rained on, slightly disheveled, but we were in no way part of the fanny-pack wearing hordes of tourists) I felt immediately as if we were ugly Americans who bounded into their home. It was the only time my entire visit to Paris and the surrounding area that I felt like the staff was cold and unwelcoming.

We still managed to spend 30 euros there, for a water, a plate of chocolates, and caramels. Of the seven chocolates on our plate, there was only one I would want again -- the mint. The caramels were fabulous; I haven't had one yet that I don't like (peanut was yum.) But was it worth taking such a huge chunk of time out of my trip to sit in a stuffy chocolatier so I could be mostly ignored for a half hour? Probably not. I'm certainly not saying don't go, but look at a map and make sure you want to head that far out of the city center before walking out there. Maybe if I'd taken a taxi the whole situation would've been better - we'd have looked nicer, we'd have spent less energy getting there, and maybe the staff would've at least not marched around us pretending as if we didn't exist for the first 10 minutes.

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    1. I also agree that acording to my experience, Génin and his staff are exceedingly nice to - and reach out to - patrons of all nationalities.

      "I felt immediately as if we were ugly Americans who bounded into their home. It was the only time my entire visit to Paris and the surrounding area that I felt like the staff was cold and unwelcoming."

      It would defeat any enjoyment - or purpose - of travel when you cultivate such inferiority complex wherever you go.

      Lastly, rue de Turenne, between place de la République and place des Vosges, "Off the beaten path"?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Parigi

        I can see how if the OP's group had not visited any of the current chocolate or pastry palaces, they might find Genin's sleek modernity surprising. It is not La Mere de la Famile or L'etoile d'Or. And how if they had not ventured far from their central hotel area, rue de Turenne might seem like the suburbs.

        While it is intuitively obvious to those of us who pop all over town in minutes, we can't over-emphsize to new visitors that they must get a RATP map and expand their horizons by bus as well as metro, to say nothing about save their energy and tempers.

      2. Sorry you had a bad time at a stellar store. Genin, who opened the store for himself, and only wanted to break even if possible made their tables far from each other, so not only do you have luxe ingredients and items, you are far enough away from each other that other's conversations do not conflict with yours. His hot chocolate is sublime, and as a salon de the is a lovely relaxing spot after wandering all over Paris. All that notwithstanding, l have noticed that the world has found his store and while 6-12 months ago, you might be alone in the shop and beverage area, now on a recent weekend, it was a zoo. The staff are very friendly and helpful but on that Saturday they were slammed and too stressed to give every customer the attention they expect. Try it on a sunny afternoon around 3 and enjoy, it is worth it to revisit.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          The last two time I was in the shop to purchase caramels, M. Genin was out front taking photographs with his customers.

        2. Thanks for all your replies, everyone. It must've been an off day, or an off hour, or somesuch thing.

          I am not a novice traveler or eater -- I grew up in the U.S. and Europe, and I travel extensively in Asia for work. I don't have an inferiority complex, just had a so-so experience at a place everyone else adores. I do love the caramels -- still eating them, actually -- but I'll stick with my original point that I don't think I'd go out of my way for the experience. But if I ever come across his caramels again, I'd happily pay 1 euro or so each for them.

          8 Replies
          1. re: linus1973

            Sold nowhere else than the shop, and at 110 euros/kg, getting 90 caramels to the kilo, guess you will have to pay about 20% more than that. The reason he does not sell them elsewhere is they have a VERY short shelf life, in fact compared a few one day older that the other and the difference was marked.

            1. re: linus1973

              It does not seem an off day or anything of that sort. Frankly, you have expectations that I and many others would not want a shop to meet. The location is not 'off the beaten path'. If you drive your car to your mailbox and such and walk a total of 3 blocks per year, I guess it is.I do not know where you are from but if you have these worldly experiences and upbringing, I would think that you would realize that the 1 sq km in the immediate Louvre area is not 'central Paris'.
              Rue de Turenne is not off the beaten path. Nothing else to say about that.I consider that a fact but in this day and age of anything and everything that anyone thinks or says validates it, people do not care for facts or truths so that nobody is ever wrong. I loathe this because it gives way to ever sinking standards. Nobody learns, yet they should write.
              Walking in cold rain is miserable, I completely agree, but that was your decision. Taxi? No need, the metro is easy as a compromise.
              As for the staff, I have dealt with all of them(save for anyone who might be new in the last couple months)but it is not their way to rush up with beaming, fake, idiotic smiles(American service) and get through it all as quickly as possible to turn the table with the guest stuffing their face in the usual way nor is it the servile way of most Asian countries. Yes, I am generalizing but that is the majority in both large geographic areas, get over it. The first time I went to the new shop, I sat in the salon. I was greeted and the staff was perfectly pleasant. I took my own seat and did wait for 10 min(guessing) before the young lady came to take my order. But that did not bother me because it is a tea salon. People are there relaxing, reading, chatting, not in a rush. If you were in a rush, I am sure they would have seen to your needs if you had made them known. The elder madame might be viewed as a bit haughty,I could possibly see that,(stereotypically viewed as snotty French) but I get along with her very well and my French ain't great. But I like that.She is perfectly gracious and proper when dealing with me. The younger staff are all very customer friendly from what I have seen and from my own experience. Perhaps you were having an off day.Nobody every considers that. I have had them myself but I recognize that and account for it. Maybe the rain walk did not help and you were frustrated with being a bit lost, etc. I do not know, just pointing it out as a possibility.

              I am not saying to go back or arguing with you that Genin actually produces truly top class products that are beyond the hype(and you seemed to think highly of some of them, at the least). But I think it is akin to false information to write that it is off the beaten path. And thus, how could I trust anything you say? These are the reasons that I do not believe that everyone should be putting down their thoughts and feelings about everywhere. Well, at least they should understand who they are, first. While it is true that everyone has and is entitled to their opinion, it is not true that they are all equally valid.That is also why I never reviewed all the shops and restaurants that I visited in Paris, recently, even though I think this board is, overall, quite good and useful and some regulars encourage everyone to leave reviews. If you know about witness testimony, you know how blatantly wrong it can be. People who were right in front of an event, recount it with factually false information. Honestly, if there were some way to validate it, I would wager that you did not sit there for 30 minutes unattended. Awhile, sure, I did(and it might not even have been 10 in my case) and you were, obviously, looking for immediate satisfaction which heightened your sensitivity.
              Now, if you had been to Genin's first shop, I would grant you the 'off the beaten path' comment even though I still might not consider it so but that statement would have some merit,especially for a tourist on a short stay. Then again, what is an extra hour if you seek the best?

              1. re: dietndesire

                I wish I could go back up and edit my post to explain what I was expecting, but I can't seem to do that. It's probably important to note that I came to this site asking for advice on whether my initial first day in Paris plans to do a short chocolate walk just north of the rue de Rivoli seemed doable. And I was told pretty unanimously to skip that and head to Jacques Genin. Someone even said the tea room would be a good place for my daughter to nap.

                It's an easy half hour walk from the main tourist area. Sure, it may not be central Paris. But for folks like me who are staying in the tourist area, it's certainly not right down in the heart of the hotel district.

                And I'm assuming you've been there. Have you been with a child? Would you feel comfortable encouraging your child to nap in that tearoom? I wouldn't. And I didn't.

                Clearly we disagree. Clearly I am in the minority. Like I said before, the caramels are great. Enjoy.

                1. re: linus1973

                  As I posted below, my family of four sat down and had pastries, and my daughter napped because she was so jet lagged while we finished our snack. For us, it was a leisurely and luxurious experience. They didn't rush us, and it took a while for us to get the check. I was not about to prod her and force her to stay awake.

                  I don't know what you're so uptight about. Your description of the place as 'stuffy' is very far from my impression.

              2. re: linus1973

                If I may allow myself to come to the OP's rescue, I think I can understand what happened.

                Yes Jacques Génin is by far my favorite salon de thé in Paris (though he could have better teas for that matter), he makes the best caramels in the world and his classic pastries are unrivalled. I appreciate Génin for never adding bells and whistles to his pastry and chocolates but just making them in the best possible manner, quite unpretentiously. I love pâtissiers who express their creativity through taste and texture, not fancy shapes and fashion items.

                The place can't be described as being "off the beaten path" since as pâtisseries and food in general are concerned, there is no such thing as a beaten path in Paris. It's in the Marais, a perfectly normal location, and you get there by bus, métro, Vélib or taxi.

                My enthusiasm for Jacques Génin's place and creations does not extend to the service, which I have found to be nice at best, a bit clueless more often than not, but there is a tall blond lady who happens to welcome and serve people in a rather stiff way. I got the impression that she was calculating the quality of her welcome according to peoples' appearance. Maybe this is the kind of welcome the OP encountered and I can perfectly imagine that happening at Jacques Génin. Jacques is a very warm person and I am not sure he is aware of that problem.

                1. re: Ptipois

                  Quick question if i may please, just to make sure :-) In this location of Genin's place, it is possible to buy for TA and not to seat, right ? I gone be staying very close to the place, and hope to try many of the pastries, chocolates and caramels.. And can someone please give some info on the average prices there?

                  1. re: oferl

                    In every pâtisserie you can buy anything to take out.

                  2. re: Ptipois

                    Earlier in the year I had the good fortune of going to M. Génin's place once a week if not more for three months and I can +1 Ptipois' observation that the staff can be hit or miss. I know exactly which lady he's talking about and agree completely (she once got quite huffy when I called her out on not giving me back the correct change). But don't let that stop any of you Chowhounds from heading over, the treats are more than worth it.

                2. Our experience was very different form yours in that our family of four had eaten lunch within an easy walk and were able to take our time sitting in the exceedingly comfortable and beautiful surroundings. We were jetlagged, and our daughter took a small nap as we sat and enjoyed our pastries. We did not look upon this as a distraction from our touring but as a destination. From there we went on to Les Puces de St Ouen - even further out. The idea that the shop is not well located or that it is somehow 'far out of the city center' seems odd to me.

                  The service was attentive as long as it was definitely our turn. Once we had finished our pastries and wanted some caramels to go, it took a while as they were dealing with other customers. But we were in no rush, and we could benefit from a luxurious experience and what we thought were sensational pastries.